Before the Dutch elections, all eyes were on the latest – some would say original – right-wing populist blonde bombshell, Geert Wilders of the Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV). Wilders’ party’s manifesto promised “de-Islamisation of the Netherlands”, including ending all immigration from Muslim countries and closing down mosques. A Eurosceptic, he was also a fan of Nexit.
The expectation that Wilders would win big was anticipated as much by the far-right as it was feared by the left. Britain’s mini-Wilders, former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, popped up on the eve of the Dutch election count to proclaim that “through the Dutch elections, the French elections etc, you will see a continuance of this revolution against global governance”.
But in the end, Dutch voters chose a different narrative. At time of writing, the centre-right VVD party prevailed, with Prime Minister Mark Rutte looking forward to a third successive term. “The Netherlands said ‘Whoa!'” he declared.
For those on the alternative left, however, the biggest nugget of election gold however may be the fact the Green-Left party sprang up to third place, with an increase of 10 seats.
Pessimists, though, may sense that below the veneer of respectability, the threat of right-wing populism has not gone away. The mainstream left was the biggest loser of the night, going from a major mainstream party to a bit-part player in a single night.
So what happens next? Here is what you need to know:
Mainstream politicians are celebrating across Europe
The election results will allow mainstream parties to form a governing coalition, and block out the PVV. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff was extremely happy, tweeting “Netherlands, oh the Netherlands, you are a champion!” Martin Schulz, Merkel’s centre-left rival, also tweeted his celebrations.
It’s a win for the alternative, not mainstream left
The Dutch Labour party, which had been the junior party in the ruling coalition, had a catastrophic night, losing 29 seats. It now has less than the Green-Left party. Although this party’s surge took place in an electoral system very different from Westminster, the UK Greens are celebrating. Co-leader Jonathan Bartley tweeted that it was “really great news proving freedom, a positive and hopeful vision can win votes”.
— Jonathan Bartley (@jon_bartley) March 16, 2017
Geert Wilders is still very much around
The PVV might not have overturned the establishment, but it still came second, with 20 seats – a gain of five. Wilders is a veteran of Dutch politics, and is unlikely to take this as a cue to shuffle off stage. Indeed, as the election results became clear, he tweeted to his 808,000 followers: “We were the third largest party of the Netherlands. Now we are the second largest party. Next time we will be number one!”
Turkey is not impressed
The run up to the Dutch elections has been overshadowed by an increasingly loud spat between Turkey and the Netherlands, over rallies in favour of Turkey’s authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. According to AFP, the Turkish government’s reaction to the nail-biting contest between a mainstream politician and the man who would persecute Dutch Turks is “there is no difference”.